Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: March 2nd Hearing

Forwarded on 3/1/06:

On March 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin consideration of a
comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Chairman Specter. The "mark-up"
will begin at 9:30am ET in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226. Since
sections of the bill which criminalize persons who have overstayed their visas, strip
the courts of jurisdiction to review administrative decisions and dramatically
increase immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican border and in the interior of
the U.S. mirror the "enforcement-only" bill already passed by the House of
Representatives, we comment below only on other sections of the bill:

* Conditional Non-Immigrant Work Authorization - This would be available, with
certain enumerated exceptions, to persons who were employed in the U.S. on January 4,
2004, and whose employers pay a $500 fee. Spouses and minor children of these
workers could qualify to remain in the U.S., although not to work, upon payment of a
$100 fee. How long will conditional non-immigrants be allowed to remain in the U.S.
The bill does not say.

* H-2C Guest Worker Program - Allows guest workers to be employed for up to six
years, three years at a time, in the U.S. at which time they would have to leave the
U.S. for one year. Is it possible for guest workers to eventually become lawful
permanent residents? Again, the bill does not say.

* F students would be permitted to work during the school year for up to 20 hours per
week, and 40 hours per week during vacations, if their employers could demonstrate
that they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers. A new F-4 category would be
established for students pursuing advanced degrees in math, engineering, technology
or the physical sciences. F-4 students, upon attaining their degrees and obtaining
full-time employment related to their field of study would be immediately able to pay
a fee of $1,000 and adjust their status to permanent residence.

* Employment-Based Immigration - The EB cap would be raised from 140,000 to 290,000
per year. Workers, and their families, who possess advanced degrees in science,
technology, engineering or math, and who have been employed in the U.S. for a minimum
of three years in nonimmigrant status, would be exempt from the EB numerical cap. If
they obtained their advanced degree from a U.S. university, they would be eligible
for a "more flexible labor certificate procedure." The country-based numerical caps
would be raised.

* H-1B Cap - Would be raised to 115,000 annually. Thereafter, the cap would be
controlled by a "market based escalator mechanism". Persons with advanced degrees in
math, science, technology and engineering would be exempt from the cap.

* Family-Based Immigration - Immediate relatives (parents, spouses and children of
U.S. citizens) would be removed from the 480,000 numerical ceiling. The extra visas
generated from this change would be redistributed among the family-based preference
categories. If the petitioner dies after the petition is submitted, the
beneficiaries would still be able to immigrate to the U.S.

Readers should bear in mind that all of these amendments to the law are still in a very preliminary stage. They will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee starting tomorrow, March 2. By March 27, the full Senate will debate the bill that emerges from the Judiciary Committee. If and when the Senate passes a bill, it will need to be reconciled with the "enforcement-only" bill which passed the House of Representatives. Some of the House leaders are on record as opposing any guest worker program, labeling it an "amnesty".

Former Senator Alan Simpson, a co-author of the 1996 anti-immigrant law, got it right
when he stated that "it's going to be an extraordinary debate filled with fear and
guilt and racism and xenophobia."

One of the opening salvos was fired by Representative Tom Tancredo (R-COLO), the
leader of the anti-immigration forces in the House of Representatives: "Words almost
fail to describe the threat this bill poses to our national and economic security...By legalizing the millions upon millions of illegal aliens in the U.S., Specter makes a mockery of our laws and crushes our already strained legal immigration system. The American people will not stand by idly as this unmitigated disaster makes its way through the Senate."

Pro-immigration organizations have stated that the bill would "create a permanent
underclass" of workers who would be unable to attain permanent residence in the U.S.
Many believe that a guest worker program which does not lead to permanent residence
would be useless. Why would a person who is working without permission in the United
States sign up as a guest worker unless they are given a chance to legalize their
immigration status? Simply so they could be deported when their legal status

While passage of the guest worker and conditional nonimmigrant provisions of the bill
remains highly uncertain, we believe that those sections of the bill which increase
the EB and H-1B caps have a better chance of being enacted into law since they
benefit only those who have complied with U.S. immigration laws.


Post a Comment

<< Home